Oct 30, 2014
Pentagon Acquisition Chief Doubts UMSC’s July F-35 IOC Target
Despite years of Pentagon officials fervently holding firm to the milestone, Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall is opening the door to a delay.
In May 2013, the Pentagon outlined the F-35 IOC plans for the Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Marine IOC includes the first squadron, VMFA-121, with 10-16 F-35Bs and enough trained pilots and maintenance officials to deploy for war. The first F-35B unit is slated for its initial deployment in 2017 to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
The Marines have maintained the most aggressive schedule among F-35 customers because of concern for its aging F-18s and AV-8Bs; F-35B development was prioritized over that of the Air Force and Navy variants earlier in the program to satisfy the Marines’ pressing need.
The service initially will use the fighter’s 2B software package, which is limited in capability, to conduct basic close air support and interdiction activities. Weapons included in the initial package are the AIM-120C7 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition and GBU-12 laser-guided bomb.
The likeliest culprit for missing the IOC date next summer is the time required to modify enough F-35Bs to the proper configuration.